Yesterday I preached on the magnetic power of God’s mission. Looking at Exodus 19:3-6 I described that God entered into a covenantal relationship with Israel, and in doing so told them that if they would obey God’s voice and his covenantal laws then they would be his “treasured possession,” “kingdom of priests,” and his “holy nation.” In other words they would be God’s treasured possession, existing for his purposes of mediating between God and the nations, and embodying the characteristics, attributes, and nature of God’s kingdom. Reading through the Old Testament there is glimmers of how Israel was used as God’s treasured possession to mediate and embody his kingdom. However, for the most part and the end reality of the Old Testament is that Israel failed; they botched their mission.
In dissecting the problem and issue of Israel’s failure to be God’s missional agents in the world, one finds a cardiac problem. In other words, Israel had a heart problem. Their disobedience, even as God’s people, exposes the problem that God had not fully dealt with, which was the wicked, evil, and rebellious heart of man.
Read these passages:
Jeremiah 31:31–33 (ESV)
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Ezekiel 36:22–27 (ESV)
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
In order for God’s people to effectively and completely fulfill his purpose of being his “treasured possession,” “kingdom of priests,” and “holy nation” and blessing “all the families of the earth,” they needed a new heart. A heart that longed for, desired, and (in essence) worshipped God. Jesus enacted this new covenant. And when one places their faith in Jesus as the Lord, God, and Savior of their life, Jesus gives them a new heart, and sends his Spirit to take residency up in their heart. Thus, the people of God—under the new covenant, enacted by Jesus—have been given a new heart.
Therefore, the involvement in God’s mission in the world boils down to a worship, a love issue. It is not a thinking issues, “What would Jesus Do?” It is not a believing issue, “Right beliefs lead to a right behavior?” It is a worship, a desire, a love issue, “Who do we ultimately love?” It really is an issue that moves from the mind, to the heart. It is an issue of the things on the periphery of our life to the center of our life. This was the issue in the Garden; Adam and Eve chose to ultimately love themselves rather than God. They chose to be front and center and leave God on the periphery.
If we will be God’s agents and vehicle of his mission, his purpose, his plan in the world, we will have to love him with all our “heart, soul, and strength.” When God becomes the ultimate aim and direction of our love and desire in the world, our love for him will be manifested (become visible) in every area of our love. Our love, or worship, of God will direct itself by the way we:
-what we believe
-how we spend our time (prioritize our time)
-how we view and spend our money
-how we love our spouse
-how we parent our children
-how we view and work our job, career, or vocation; how we approach our work ethic in school
-how we engage our community; respond to the needs around us
-the type of tip we leave at the restaurant
-the way we respond to the belligerent neighbor or customer
-the way we exert our energies and effort in recreation (whatever we do, do all for the glory of the Lord)
-how we view and respond to pain and suffering in this life
-how we engage in everyday conversations with our friends, co-workers, and neighbors
-how we grow in our relationship with God; understanding and knowing him in order to live for him
-the desire we have to tell people about the ultimate love of our life: Jesus!
Therefore, this is the reason why the motive of God’s mission, a covenantal love relationship with him, becomes the foundation for the magnetic force of God’s mission. When we love (worship) God as the preeminent love of our life (with all our heart, soul, and strength), we inevitably are used as his conduit and vehicle by which he draws people to himself. How’s our love? How’s our worship?